Big thanks to all the Hoppers Fan readers for putting us back on the Top 100 MLB.com Blogs list again this year — that’s 2 years in a row! We came in at #68 — moving up the charts from the #78 spot we captured last year. Like I said last year, it’s great to see that a blog devoted to a Single-A Minor League team in North Carolina is as popular as blogs devoted to Major League teams. From Jordan and me, to all of you, thank you! We’re excited to see what 2014 brings — just 40 days until pitchers and catchers report!
It’s hard to believe we are entering the 10th season of blogging at MLB.com! Now comes the annual tip of the hat to all of the best blogs in our community, or at least the ones who had what it took to draw the largest followings. Congratulations to everyone who made the Top 100 MLB.com Blogs list, based on page views from Jan. 1-Dec. 31, 2013. If you’re on the list, make sure you add your Top 100 MLB.com Blogs badge to your sidebar, with the link to this post. That goes for you active players, front-office crews, player wives, groundskeepers, fans, photogs, broadcasters and Idols like Scotty McCreery. The coming year promises to be even better, so a big Thank You to everyone in our community — whether you’re a veteran or a rookie.
Once again the blog maintained by all MLB.com reporters claims the top…
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Howdy, Hoppers Fans! This is Greg, with an update on one way the Greensboro Grasshoppers are pitching in (pun intended) to support the local community. After you read this, I hope you’ll consider pitching in, too.
As you may remember, last year I became a father to a beautiful daughter, who was born two and a half months prematurely. Earlier this year, Jordan also became a father to a daughter born prematurly. Both of us are extremely grateful for the support we received from Family Support Network of Central Carolina (FSNCC), an organization whose mission is to provide support, education, and caring connections to those who have a child with special needs or those born prematurely. A few months ago, FSNCC asked me to serve on their Executive Board and I was honored to accept that invitation.
For the past several years, FSNCC has hosted a casino-themed fundraising event called Poker For Preemies. Proceeds from this event go to support all of FSNCC’s programs, not just the efforts surrounding working with NICU families like Jordan’s and mine. Because of the severe funding cuts FSNCC (along with many other non-profit organizations) has suffered due to lessening support from the state budget, the Poker For Preemies fundraiser has been an extremely important event that has helped FSNCC maintain the level of excellent programs we have been providing for many years.
By this point, you may be wondering what the Hoppers have to do with all of this. Read on and wonder no more! The Hoppers have a long history of supporting the community in various ways. They even have a “Donation Requests” page on their website, proclaiming that they “are happy to help numerous charitable organizations in the greater Triad area that are dedicated to making a difference in our community.” I’m pleased to report that they are, indeed, happy to help.
At the Poker For Preemies event, we will be featuring raffles for a number of prize baskets, each with a different theme. A few weeks ago, I contacted Joey at the Hoppers Font Office, soliciting a donation of items for one of the baskets. Joey and the Hoppers came through in spades (again, pun intended), donating over $50 worth of collectible Hoppers memorabilia and Hoppers-themed toys! They are going to fit right in with what we are calling the “Children’s Basket” — a basket full of items that children will enjoy. In addition to the Hoppers memorabilia, the Children’s Basket will help ease a rainy day with passes, gift certificates and memberships to area attractions like the Children’s Museum, Science Center, Monkey Joe’s and more!! On behalf of FSNCC, I would like to extend a huge “thank you” to the Hoppers for supporting our fundraiser with these raffle prizes to add to this basket!
The Poker For Preemies fundraiser is next Thursday, October 24, 7pm-12:30am. If you’d like to come out and support us, there is still time to buy tickets. My wife and I attended last year’s event and had a wonderful time. We even won one of the awesome prize baskets! The evening features food, music, dancing, and all sorts of casino games. Each ticket includes 10,000 chips for gaming at tables such as blackjack, craps, roulette and poker. Tables will be open from 7:30-10:30 so be sure to arrive early to get your game on! Not into cards? No problem! At any point in the evening, you can “cash” in your chips for raffle tickets. 5,000 chips = 1 ticket. Additional raffle tickets will be available for purchases. Put all your raffle tickets in the prize basket featuring the Hoppers memorabilia and you might just be the lucky winner! If you’re not able to attend the fundraiser, but would like to support FSNCC with a tax-deductible donation, we are happy to accept donations in a variety of ways.
Thanks again to the Hoppers for supporting FSNCC through their generous donation of memorabilia to be used as raffle prizes. If you are involved with a charitable organization in the greater Triad area, I encourage you to contact the Hoppers with a donation request for your charity. It really feels good to be a Hoppers Fan when you hear about some of the ways the team gets involved in the community outside of baseball.
Thank you for reading this blog entry that spent more time focusing on a non-profit organization that means a lot to Jordan and me than it did focusing on Hoppers baseball. I sincerely hope you’ll consider supporting us as well. If you’d like to learn more about FSNCC and/or Poker For Preemies, here are a bunch of links to check out:
- Family Support Network of Central Carolina Web Page
- Family Support Network of Central Carolina on Facebook
- Poker For Preemies Web Page
- Poker For Preemies on Facebook
- Poker For Preemies Tickets
- Poker For Preemies Donations (with a chance to win tickets to the event!)
Over the last couple decades Greensboro has seen some incredible, sometimes historic ballplayers grace the diamond. Andy Petitte, Derek Jeter, Mariano Rivera, Giancarlo (Mike) Stanton, Bryce Harper, Brian McCann, and Ryan Howard have all brushed through Greensboro. Some of the ballplayers were on the Greensboro team that was affiliated with the New York Yankees, others played for the Marlins affiliate. Some even played on opposing teams that gave us a chance to get a glimpse at a major leaguer in a minor league ballpark. Before the season started Greg and I went to go see the movie “42” together. It tells the story of Jackie Robinson‘s entry into Major League Baseball. Phenomenal movie. I realized during that movie, that I didn’t know that much about good ol’ Jackie. So I started doing some research and anything that had his name on it, I was intrigued to read it. It wasn’t too much longer, Bill On Baseball‘s Bill Hass wrote me a message to check out his article in the Greensboro Grasshoppers game day program. It was about Jackie Robinson and his ties to Greensboro. Bill has been so gracious to give us permission to share with you guys his story on baseball’s Hall Of Famer, Jackie Robinson, and his connections to Greensboro.
Jackie Robinson And His Ties To Greensboro
by Bill Hass
Jackie Robinson’s impact on the game of baseball and society in America was immense.
I don’t think I fully understood to what extent until I wrote a story in 2004 for the News & Record of Greensboro. It focused on how the stands were segregated in War Memorial Stadium, which didn’t change until the early 1960s.
One of the people I interviewed was Spencer Gwynn, the long-time voice of football and basketball at North Carolina A&T, who summed up what Robinson meant to African-Americans in 25 words.
“Black people all over the country identified with him,” Gwynn said. “When Jackie struck out, we struck out. When Jackie stole a base, we stole a base.”
Many people don’t realize that Robinson played three times in Memorial Stadium. Or they may remember two games, in 1950 and 1951, when the Brooklyn Dodgers played the Greensboro Patriots in exhibition games as they traveled north from spring training in Florida.
But the largely forgotten game, and the first time Robinson played here, came on Oct. 14, 1949. Robinson had a team of barnstorming all-stars that came to town to play against a local team of black all-stars.
Segregation of Memorial Stadium’s stands was suspended for that day. An advance story in the Greensboro Daily News noted that “a special section of box and reserved seats has been set aside for white spectators.”
That meant black fans, instead of having to sit in “their section” down the foul line behind first base, could sit anywhere.
Robinson’s presence created what Gwynn called “an electric crowd.” The official attendance was listed at 6,620 and Robinson was quoted as saying, “I know 3,000 crawled over the fences that weren’t counted.”
Robinson’s team won, 11-5. One of the opposing players was James Tonkins, a second baseman for the Greensboro Red Birds, a semi-pro team that played its games in Memorial Stadium.
“I remember he went sightseeing on old East Market Street, meeting people,” Tonkins told me. “It seemed like he went on campus (at N.C. A&T) that day.
“What fascinated me so much was how pigeon-toed he was, almost like he was walking on the tips of his toes. He was quite a guy, real outgoing. His appearance created quite a bit of interest.”
So did Robinson’s second appearance, on April 11, 1950. The Dodgers crushed the Patriots 22-0 and Robinson had three hits and two RBIs and scored twice. Attendance was 8,434, the largest crowd up until then to watch a baseball game in North Carolina.
The crowd probably was larger. Patriots owner Rufus Blanchard estimated that 1,500 youngsters slipped over the fence. One account told of 500 people “clinging perilously to tree branches and rooftops outside the stadium.”
For some reason I did not document, at least in that story, Robinson’s third appearance here. It came in April of 1951 and it’s likely the Dodgers won and the crowd was large.
I started thinking about all this after recently seeing the movie “42,” an account of 1947, the year Robinson broke the color barrier in the major leagues. For the most part, it was well done and a fitting tribute to what Robinson endured that season, set against the background of the social changes he helped set in motion.
The movie strived to be as authentic as possible — the physical resemblance between Robinson and actor Chadwick Boseman is uncanny — although it took some dramatic license with incidents and characters.
Two characters in the movie, both of whom are cast in a bad light, have a Greensboro connection. Dixie Walker, Robinson’s teammate, played with the Patriots in 1928 at age 17, although he appeared in just six games.
Walker is accurately depicted as one of the Dodgers who signed a petition — rejected by team president Branch Rickey — saying they would not play if Robinson was a member of the team. Although the movie implies otherwise, there is no evidence Walker gave Robinson a hard time during their season together.
In his biography “I Never Had It Made,” Robinson uses a quote from Walker that appeared in The Sporting News: “Dixie Walker summed it up in a few words the other day when he said: ‘No other ballplayer on this club with the possible exception of Bruce Edwards, has done more to put the Dodgers up in the race than Robinson has. He is everything Branch Rickey said he was when he came up from Montreal.”
Another “villain” in the movie is Pittsburgh pitcher Fritz Ostermueller. Unlike Walker, he didn’t just pass through Greensboro. He pitched for the Patriots in 1931, going 15-9, and in 1932, when he was 21-9.
In the movie Ostermueller, who died of cancer at age 50 in 1956, is shown as hitting Robinson in the head with a pitch and saying “You don’t belong here.” But there are several problems with the scene.
First, he was a left-hander, not right-handed as the movie shows. Second, research by several sources indicates that while Robinson was hit by Ostermueller’s pitch, it wasn’t in the head. The pitch may have been up and in, but Robinson was struck in the left forearm that he raised to protect himself, then fell to the ground. And there is no account that says Ostermueller shouted at Robinson.
The Dodgers are shown rallying around the fallen Robinson and shouting at Ostermueller, and accounts of the day bear that out.
Ostermueller’s daughter, Sherrill Duesterhaus, has publicly criticized the directors for unfairly portraying her father as a racist. Robinson didn’t seem bothered by the incident. In his book, the only mention of Ostermueller, whom he referred to as “Fitz,” is that during a game in Pittsburgh, Robinson noticed the pitcher had become “a little careless and relaxed.” So he stole home with what turned out to be the winning run.
Make what you will of Walker and Ostermueller. I just found it interesting that two players with Greensboro backgrounds played important parts in “42.”
There are two more indirect connections between Jackie Robinson and Greensboro. One came in 2002, when the second baseman for the Greensboro Bats was Robinson Cano, now a star for the New York Yankees. Cano told me his father named him for Jackie Robinson.
The other connection concerns Mariano Rivera, the great Yankees closer who played for the Greensboro Hornets in 1991 and 1993. Rivera, who will retire after this season, is the last player in the major leagues to wear the number 42, which was permanently retired several years ago for all teams.
It seems a fitting legacy that the now-famous number of Hall-of-Famer Jackie Robinson is being worn for the last time by future Hall-of-Famer Mariano Rivera.
That is one thing that makes Greensboro such a spectacular place to watch a game. You never know who you are watching make history. With storied names like Robinson, Jeter, Stanton, Petitte, Fernandez, it just makes Greensboro all the more fun. If you looked back in the history pages you would see that it has been and forever will be… A GREAT TIME TO BE A HOPPER!!!
Once again, we offer a sincere thank you to Bill Hass for sharing this incredible story. You can check out all of Bill’s stories on his “Bill On Baseball” blog. This story about Jackie Robinson is also set to run again in the Greensboro Grasshoppers program during their June 24-30 home stand against the Asheville Tourists and the Delmarva Shorebirds, so be sure to check it out in print when you’re at the ballpark next week!
Hi, Hoppers Fans, it’s Greg. You might have noticed that I’ve been absent from the blog for a while. You may remember back in April that I mentioned I took a new job and that my wife and I were expecting our first child in August. I also introduced everyone to our new corespondent, Jordan Stowe. Jordan’s been doing an amazing job with the blog, and I’m truly grateful for his stepping up to the plate to keep it going, with great insight on the games and some great pictures to boot.
So, remember when I said we were expecting our baby in August? Well, surprise! She came early. Welcome to the world, Aurora Julianna Fairlie Cohoon! Born Tuesday, May 29 at 2:57am in an epic unattended delivery. Seriously. Mommy and I were at the hospital, in a room by ourselves while the medical professionals were giving us some alone time since the baby was still not expected for several hours. Then, all of the sudden, there was a baby in the room! After hitting the emergency call button, the room was full of hospital staff who did a great job of taking care of everything. I’m telling everyone that my daughter wanted a little alone time with Mommy and Daddy before finding herself surrounded by medical professionals for weeks on end. She got a good 15-20 seconds before being set upon by the hospital staff. And it was awesome.
Mom and baby are doing well. We’re expecting Rorie to have an extended stay in the NICU. We continue to cherish your prayers in the coming weeks. 🙂
Howdy, Hoppers Fans, this is Greg with an announcement! As I mentioned in my post from earlier today, while I’m not going to be writing as many blog entries this year as I have in the past, this blog for the Hoppers Fans and it is going to keep going on. To help with that, I’m extremely excited to announce that my friend Jordan Stowe is going to be pitching in with some of the blogging duties.
Without further ado, allow me to let him introduce himself:
Hey guys, gals, and fellow Hopper fans! Let me first start by introducing myself. My name is Jordan Stowe, I’m a longtime Greensboro Baseball fan. I remember the good ol’ days back at War Memorial when Greensboro Baseball was a NY Yankee farm system. I am an avid sports collector and lover of all things sports… except hockey. Just not a fan. I am a newlywed, my wife and I have been married a little over a year and we have a cute little doggy named Sadie, and I guess I’ll mention that other little thing that purrs… my WIFE’s cat Roxy… (NOT A FAN EITHER). Our first date was at a Greensboro Grasshopper game back in 2008. We are residents here in Greensboro. Also, I have a great passion for photography. So, I’ll be the man behind the lens for most pictures seen here in this blog.
I will be tag teaming these blogs with Greg occasionally. Greg and I met during last season as we both shared our love for BISCUITs at the away game in Kannapolis. We picked one lucky person on the Intimidator squad to be the Biscuitville strikeout victim. We were the only ones screaming for biscuits, but it sure was fun!
I echo the sentiments heard all around the ballpark these days…. ITS A GREAT TIME TO BE A HOPPER!
Jordan’s a great guy and I love hanging out with him at the games. Like he mentioned, he’s got a passion for photography. I’ve seen some of the pictures he’s taken so far this year and they’re great! We’re looking forward to sharing them on the blog, so keep your eyes open. He’ll start writing some blog entries soon, so be sure to give him a warm welcome!
As I’m able to make it out to the games, I’ll keep writing blog entries. It’s really exciting to have Jordan on board to help shoulder the work. We’re both new at writing a “tag team” or “group” blog, so please bear with us as we work out the kinks. We’ll try to make sure to identify who’s writing what to help keep the confusion to a minimum.
Welcome aboard, Jordan — I’m glad you’re here!
Rumors of the death of the Hoppers Fan blog are greatly exaggerated. Yes, it’s true that I quit posting before the season was over, even though the Hoppers, you know, WON THE SAL CHAMPIONSHIP!
Oops, yeah. I should have written about that. So… um… well… Congratulations to the 2011 team! It was a thrilling second half of the season, and it was really special for the fans to watch the team take it all the way to the end.
So, yeah. I haven’t posted anything this year, either. Let me explain. The short version is that I’m really, really busy. The long version is that last fall, I started a new job. It’s a great job and I love the people I work with. But there’s a downside in that it’s 70 miles away from my house, and I’m commuting almost every day for it. As a result, I knew I wouldn’t be going to as many games this year as I have the past two years. I didn’t even buy a season ticket this year. So far, the Hoppers have played 9 home games, and I’ve only made it out to 1 of them (and the Hoppers lost). It’s a sad day for baseball in the Hoppers Fan house.
But it’s also a happy day in the Hoppers Fan house. My wife and I are expecting our first child this August! It’s a girl, and we’re really excited about her. With the shift into parenthood, my priorities are shifting, too. Combined with the fact that I’m not as home as much as I used to be, it means that my blogging activities are necessarily slipping down the “to-do” list. I’m not giving it up, but I won’t be able to focus on it with the intensity that I have the past few years. I know y’all understand.
All is not lost, though! There are some exciting things happening with this blog that I think will allow the blog to continue as well as allow me to focus on the things I need to be focusing on. This blog has always been for the fans, and that’s not going to change. I’m not ready to share the details yet, but keep your eye on this space for an exciting announcement!
I’m getting ready to take one more trip down to Kannapolis to (hopefully) watch the Grasshoppers do battle with the Intimidators. I say “hopefully,” because there is a lot of rain in the forecast, due to tropical storm Lee. It’s going to come down to the results of two games and the weather. Jeff Mills describes the possibilities in a story in today’s News & Record: Grasshoppers’ playoff drama full of variables. Fortunately, most of the possible outcomes have the Hoppers in the playoffs. But not all of them do, so it’s going to be a tense day watching the game and watching the league scoreboard.
Join the conversation by leaving a comment — what are you thinking?